Being faced with long-term illness or disability is incredibly stressful, and can cause serious implications for your finances. For those who have become financially vulnerable due to ongoing illness, or are looking for ways to plan for unexpected circumstances, business growth consultant Daniel Groves has compiled some the resources that can help.
The first avenue for most people facing illness, injury or sudden disability is going to be sick pay from your employer. Check your employment handbook for details about the policy at your workplace, and communicate (in writing) with your employer’s HR department if they have one.
If there is no specific policy or insurance coverage at your workplace, you can claim Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) as long as you are employed but unable to work and earning an average of at least £120 a week. The current SSP rate is £95.85 a week. If your employer is refusing to pay SSP (or refusing to pay the full amount), contact the HMRC statutory payment dispute team.
When you think you are able to return to work, remember that you can ask your employer for accommodations to help you perform your job safely and comfortably. For example, requesting non-standard equipment that’s adapted for your physical needs.
Not every instance of sickness or injury is going to have a legal route to pursue, but if you’re suffering as a result of someone else’s actions (or negligence), you may be entitled to financial compensation.
For example, it’s compulsory for UK workplaces to have Employers Liability Insurance in case of accidents and injuries. Even if you feel partially responsible for an incident, you may be eligible for compensation if your employer is deemed to be mostly at fault, or has failed to follow Health & Safety regulations. In addition to claiming from your employer’s insurance, you may be eligible for Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit, depending on the severity of your condition.
It’s compulsory for UK workplaces to have Employers Liability Insurance in case of accidents and injuries.
It’s possible to claim compensation if you have become ill or injured at the hands of medical professionals – either due to a procedure being carried out incorrectly, or a misdiagnosis leading to delayed or inappropriate healthcare. This can extend to psychological trauma caused by witnessing medical negligence – for instance, a father present at a traumatic birth. Medical negligence claims do require the expertise of a specialist lawyer, but a free consultation will give you an idea of whether you have a case.
The Government offers compensation to victims of violent crime, including those left with physical injuries, disabling mental injuries and/or a loss of earnings due to an inability to work for more than 28 weeks.
Money and Mental Health
Changes in circumstance are often triggers for mental health deterioration, especially when an ongoing sickness, injury or disability is beyond your control. Money worries will add extra stress, so working on healthy thought patterns and habits is a good idea – for example, tracking your spending and identifying the most stressful situations regarding money. The mental health charity Mind has some excellent guidance for navigating money and mental health.
Personal Benefits – ESA, Universal Credit and PIP
If you run out of Statutory Sick Pay, or aren’t eligible, you can apply for new-style Employment and Support Allowance (ESA). ESA is intended to support you if you can’t work, or can only work a few hours a week due to a disability – however, you need to have made National Insurance contributions for the last 2-3 years.
Universal Credit is the new system to replace Income Support, Housing Benefits, tax credits and the previous Employment and Support Allowance scheme. You can claim Universal Credit in addition to SSP and/or ESA, or as an alternative if you don’t qualify.
You can claim Universal Credit in addition to SSP and/or ESA, or as an alternative if you don’t qualify.
Personal Independence Payment (PIP) is financial support for people who struggle with everyday tasks and have difficulty getting about (previously called Disability Living Allowance). If your illness, injury or disability has affected you for at least 3 months, and is expected to last for at least another 9 months, you should qualify.
PIP provides between £23.60 and £151.40 a week, depending on the severity of your condition, but it is not affected by your existing income or savings. Universal Credit is means tested, however, so will be affected by your savings, income, and spouse’s income.
It can be confusing, but the Turn2Us charity is dedicated to helping people experiencing hardship understand what financial benefits they’re entitled to. Their calculator is a good place to start.
Assistance with Housing Costs
Temporary support is available if you need help with paying your mortgage or rent. Homeowners can apply for a loan to help them make interest payments on their mortgage, called Support for Mortgage Interest (SMI). This money is paid 39 weeks after application, and must be paid back when you return to work or sell your home – so it may not be suitable in every circumstance.
Renters can make a claim for housing costs under Universal Credit.
Low-income households are eligible for a reduction of their Council Tax, although specific schemes vary across the UK.
If your circumstances suddenly make it difficult to put food on the table, look for local services, like food banks, that can help you with the basics. The Trussell Trust is a network of 1,200 “community organisations aimed at supporting people who cannot afford the essentials in life”, and will help you locate your nearest options or arrange a food parcel.
Your nearest food bank may be run by a church or religious group – you can go to them even if you’re not religious, or follow a different religion.
If you’re not sure whether you’re eligible for food bank aid, your local Citizen’s Advice Bureau will be able to help (and give you a referral, if you need one). They may also be able to provide vouchers for clothing, fuel and other essentials.
Support for Carers
Remember that there is a whole other side to long-term illness, which is that your carers may also be eligible for financial support and benefits. For example, the Carer’s Allowance offers full-time carers £67.25 a week, and Carer’s Credit that covers gaps in National Insurance records so that carers can still be eligible for a State Pension.
Also, if your capacity to manage your own money is diminished, there are resources for asking others to support you in making financial decisions, or to become an appointee to make decisions on your behalf.
Ultimately, preparing for the unexpected is very difficult, and there’s no exhaustive list of resources that cover every eventuality. If you find yourself facing financial hardship due to an illness, injury or disability, know that there is always advice and financial assistance available if you ask.